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JN800 week 4 Statistics and Basic Economics for Journalists

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Statistics you will need to know as a reporter Average/mean/median Percentage increase/decrease Fractions as a percentage and vice versa Simplifying fractions and percentages Identifying trends over time Simple maths including division, multiplication, addition and subtraction

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Economics you will need to know as a reporter You will need to know at the top of your head: Quantitative Easing Deficit – and how it is different from debt RPI GDP How inflation works and how interest rates are set. What fluctuations in the exchange rate and stock markets tend to mean Financial markets and how they impact on the wider economy Why, for example, did stock markets rise immediately an announcement on the US debt ceiling deal was made?

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The average/mean and median You are doing a piece about the age of people who go into record shops to buy CDs. You interview 10 people and ask their ages. Your findings reveal: 2 people aged 11 1 aged 14 1 aged 15 2 aged 16 1 aged 22 1 aged 28 1 aged 32 1 aged 65 How do you work out the average age of shoppers? You add up their ages, and divide that total by the number of people (10): 230/10 = 23 years old. But considering 7/10 of the people were under 23, is this actually an accurate representation? The median age is found when you place all the ages in a row from bottom to top and find the middle: 11, 11, 14, 15, 16, 16, 22, 28, 32, 65. This way you see that the median age is less than the average, 16. This is probably a better reflection of the character of the shoppers as there are more younger people than older ones.

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Basic percentages If you interview 100 people and 62 said they would vote to leave the EU, then ‘62 per cent of respondents said they would vote to leave the EU’. If YouGov surveyed 326 people and 189 said they would vote to leave the EU, then what is the percentage? The sum is 189/326 x 100/1 Which is: 18900/326 = or 58 per cent

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Your turn 1) In a cabinet of 24 councillors, 18 voted in favour of a motion. Was this a more than 50 per cent majority required to pass? 2) You’re doing a survey of drug dealing in a notorious part of Chatham. You stop and interview 87 people. 63 say they have been affected by drug dealing in some way. What percentage is this? 3) Out of 523 students on the Medway Campus, 472 say the social facilities are poor. What percentage is this?

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Percentage increase/decrease Many stories derive from looking at statistical databases. Often this requires you working out the percentage increase over one or more years. The Department for Energy and Climate Change gives you these figures: in 2009, 4,812 homes in Britain had solar panels on their roofs. By 2012, this figure had jumped to 17,234. What is the percentage increase? First you do the sum 17,234 – 4,812 to find out the difference over the three years = 12, 422. Then you need to divide the difference number by the original number: 12,422/4,812 x 100/1 = 258 per cent increase Another example: One year there were 352 births to underage mums in Chatham, and the next there were 397. The percentage increase is 397 – 352 = 45/352 x 100 = per cent increase. You work out the percentage decrease in the same way. In 2011, Chatham police caught 82 drink-drive motorists in a one-week period just before Christmas. In 2012, the figure had dropped to 54. The percentage decrease in drink-driving is 82 – 54 = 28/82 x 100 = 34 or, around a third.

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Fractions as percentages and vice versa Simple ones are 25 per cent is a quarter, 50 per cent is a half, 20 per cent is a fifth, 66 per cent is two thirds. For harder ones, for example 22/25, you do the sum 22/25 x 100/1 = 88 per cent. You know it’s right because 22/25 is very nearly 100 per cent. What are 9/17 as a percentage? 53 per cent. Again, you can tell as 9/18 would be 50 per cent. A better way of expressing figures like this, is ‘just over a half’ To do it the other way round, you express the percentage as a fraction eg 88 per cent is 88/100 and then simplify it down to its lowest common denominators. Both 88 and 100 can be divided by 4 = 22/25. Rounding up and down. If something is 47/48/49 per cent it is ‘nearly half’; if something is 67/68 per cent it is just over two thirds. As a rule, people find simple fractions easier to understand than percentages.

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Basic journalistic stats story Go to the ONS website and find tables for births wales--series-fm1-/no /index.html Look at table 1.1 and answer the following questions: wales--series-fm1-/no /index.html 1) How many total live births were there in 1998? 2) How many total live births in 2008? 3) What year was the lowest number of births within that time scale? 4) How many births were inside, and how many outside marriage, in 1998? 5) What percentage of births in 1998 were outside marriage? 6) What percentage of births in 2008 were outside marriage? 7) What is the percentage increase of births outside marriage 1998 – 2008?

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Numbers and style Where possible, turn numbers into their simplest form. Half or two thirds is better than 50 per cent or 66 per cent. Work out what large numbers actually mean to people. If it costs the council £3 million a year to clean chewing gum off the pavements and there are 30,000 households in the town, then it costs £100 per family to deal with the problem. A 100 per cent increase means the figure has doubled.

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Economic Terms Quantitative Easing – Designed to inject money into the economy. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee purchases assets with money it has created electronically. This is in response to a sharp fall in demand as businesses and consumers reduce their spending to tackles debt. In short, there is not enough money to go round in the economy. The bank purchases assets from private sector businesses including insurance companies, pension funds, high street banks and non-financial firms. These assets are normally in the shape of Government Bonds; firms then convert the money received from the purchases into boosting the value of their business, investing which should then filter down into the wider economy. All this is to keep the Bank of England on track to stay at or near to the 2 per cent inflation target. (www.bankofengland.co.uk)

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Debt and Deficit The UK national debt is the total amount of money the British Government owes to private institutions and other purchasers of UK gilts Total debt at the end of December 2012 was £1,111.4 billion – around 82 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is why we are f****d. Not quite as much as 16 trillion US dollars though. The last time our debt was anywhere near current levels was during the oil crisis of the mid-70s when it was around 55 per cent of GDP Public sector net borrowing (PSNB – annual deficit) was £121.6 billion for 2011/12 or 11% of GDP. The deficit is the difference between what the Government brings in in taxes, and what it spends, every year.

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Other countries’ debt While having debt at 88 per cent of GDP is scary, here are some other countries’ figures: US Government debt is 106 per cent of GDP Italy’s debt is 126 per cent of GDP Greece’s debt is 155 per cent of GDP Japan’s debt is 134 per cent of GDP But Saudi Arabia’s debt is -52 per cent of GDP Oman’s debt is 7 per cent of GDP China’s is 21 per cent of GDP

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Statistics task Have a look at these NHS tables on admissions to hospital via external cause, for one year. Are there any interesting potential stories here? Age of people treated for falling from a tree? That 74 people were treated for being bitten or crushed by reptiles? What will you have to do before you can produce a sound piece of journalism on your chosen subject?

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